Three veteran Long Island fire commissioners have reached the top ranks of statewide organizations representing thousands of firefighters, chiefs and fire district officials.
Robert McConville of Selden, Don Corkery of Sayville and Anthony Gallino of Rocky Point said in separate interviews they plan to use their positions to focus on initiatives that will help improve safety on the job for thousands of firefighters -- and for the homeowners they protect. They also are working on plans to recruit and retain volunteers. All were elected to their new posts this year.
The three men -- who collectively have more than 100 years experience fighting fires -- said updated laws and equipment are needed to keep pace with increasing risks faced by firefighters, such as wildfires, floods and other natural disasters.
"The fire service has become an all-purpose industry," said McConville, 67, who was elected by his peers earlier this year to head the Firemen's Association of the State of New York.
The three men said firefighters also face new dangers posed by changes in home construction and household furnishings. They said they back state legislation that would ban flame-retardant chemicals used in couches that researchers have linked to cancer.
In a statement posted on its website, the American Home Furnishings Alliance called for additional research into the issue and said the group "is not aware of any evidence . . . linking the level of flame retardants typically found in upholstered home furnishings to human health problems."
The fire group's leaders also support a change in the state fire code that would mandate sprinklers in new homes and in some renovated houses. Both the furniture law and the code change are expected to be considered by state officials next year.
"Smoke detectors are great, but in today's houses . . . probably 85 to 90 percent of material is petroleum-based that spreads [fire] faster," said Corkery, 61, president of the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs.
"When we get there, we're finding hotter fires burning faster."
Lew Dubuque, executive vice president of the New York State Builders Association, said the trade group opposes mandatory sprinklers because they would raise the cost of a new home by $10,000 to $20,000. "This is a tax on new homes," he said. "To add this cost is just going to destroy the new home market when we're just coming out of the worst recession the country's ever seen."
Gallino, 63, first vice president of the Association of Fire Districts of the State of New York, said leaders of the three groups regularly discuss issues of mutual concern and support one another's legislative agendas.
"I think it makes for better service for the people of New York State," said Gallino, who also is deputy highway superintendent for the Town of Brookhaven. "It's really simple in the end. We're working for the same thing, to save life and property."